Guangzhou’s manufacturing hub closed to most arrivals on Monday as China battles a major rise in COVID-19 in its major eastern cities.
Shanghai bore the brunt of the rise, with another 26,087 cases announced on Monday, of which only 914 showed symptoms. The city of 26 million is under tight lockdown, with many residents confined to their homes for up to three weeks and concerns growing over the effect on the economy of China’s biggest city.
The financial hub has seen international events canceled due to the crackdown, and local football club Shanghai Port were forced to withdraw from the Asian Champions League because travel restrictions prevented them from attending matches in Thailand.
No such lockdown has yet been announced for Guangzhou, a metropolis of 18 million northwest of Hong Kong that is home to many big businesses and China’s busiest airport. Only 27 cases were reported in the city on Monday.
However, primary and secondary schools went online after the first 23 local infections were detected last week. An exhibition center was being converted into a makeshift hospital after authorities earlier announced they would begin mass testing across the city.
Only citizens with a “definite need” to leave Guangzhou can do so, and only if they test negative for the virus within 48 hours of departure, city spokesman Chen Bin said in an announcement on social networks.
China has stuck to its “zero-COVID” strategy of managing outbreaks with strict isolation and mass testing, despite complaints in Shanghai about shortages of food and medical services.
The Chinese government and fully state-controlled media are increasingly defensive of complaints about COVID-19 prevention measures, censor online content and reprimand foreign critics.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Sunday that China had “filed solemn representations with the United States” after the State Department advised Americans to reconsider travel to China due to of the “arbitrary application” of local laws and restrictions related to COVID-19, especially in Hong Kong, Jilin. province and Shanghai. American officials have mentioned a risk of “separation of parents and children”.
China was “strongly unhappy with and firmly opposed to the US side’s baseless accusation against China’s epidemic response,” Zhao said.
Despite this, and despite indications that the hardline policy is dictated by ruling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, China has rejected any notion that its response is political in nature. Xi has demanded social stability above all ahead of a key party congress later this year when he is expected to give himself an unprecedented third term as party leader.
The English-language China Daily acknowledged that Shanghai’s measures are “far from perfect” and pointed to the dismissal last week of three local officials for neglecting their duties. But he said it shouldn’t become an “excuse to politicize the event and blame China.
Zhao issued a new defense of China’s virus controls on Monday, saying they “have proven to be effective and consistent with its national conditions and needs, and have made an important contribution to the global fight against the epidemic.”
Shanghai has brought in thousands of additional health workers from other cities, provinces and the military. Despite the large number of cases, no new deaths were reported in the Shanghai wave, possibly because the omicron variant is less lethal than older variants.
City authorities also say they have ensured daily supplies for residents, following complaints about deliveries of food and other basic necessities.
Residents have resorted to group buying groceries because they are not allowed to leave their buildings, with only partial success in obtaining needed items.
Officials say they will start easing restrictions starting with areas where no new infections have been detected for two weeks. Residents will be allowed to move around their neighborhoods while remaining socially distant.
A second category will be allowed to move around their neighborhoods, while others will remain isolated in their homes.
Chinese club Shanghai Port have been forced by the city’s COVID-19 lockdown to withdraw from the Asian Champions League, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced on Monday.
Due to travel restrictions in the city, Port was unable to travel to Thailand for six Group J matches.
His first match was scheduled for Saturday against Vissel Kobe of Japan.
“The AFC has acknowledged the travel restrictions Shanghai Port FC is facing following the recent lockdown measures applied in Shanghai,” the AFC said in a statement.
The capital, Beijing, has seen relatively few restrictions, although the Erjiefang district, including the famous 798 art district, has been cordoned off and classified as high risk after eight infections were reported there in the last two weeks.
China is facing one of its worst local outbreaks since the pandemic began. China is still mostly closed to international travel, even though most of the world has sought ways to live with the virus.